Sir Elton John today announced from Cape Town, South Africa, the granting of a £984,000 award to mothers2mothers (m2m) to be used to help prevent hundreds of thousands of babies across Africa from contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) through mother-to child transmission and assist mothers in staying healthy to care for their children.The award, a multi-year grant from The Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF), will enable m2m to work to develop effective programmes to support clinical efforts preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, across sub-Saharan Africa and develop a gold standard for delivering and monitoring these programmes.
Each year, an estimated 1.4 million women living with HIV become pregnant. Without effective medical intervention and education, up to 40% of these women will transmit HIV to their children, either during pregnancy or in the first years of the infant’s life. Scientific advances and high-quality medical care have almost eradicated pediatric AIDS in resource rich countries. 91% of the global cases of mother-to-child transmission of HIV emanate from sub-Saharan Africa, where there are overwhelming systemic, societal and economic barriers to care. The grant from the EJAF will enable m2m to explore and roll out effective and affordable client interventions in over 600 health care facilities across Africa.
‘I visited mothers2mothers’ programme at Site B clinic in Khayelitsha a couple of years ago’ comments Sir Elton, ‘and was knocked out by how effective the Mentor Mother approach can be. We want an HIV-free generation in Africa and m2m is going to help us get there.’
m2m works in health care facilities partnering with doctors and nurses to meet the comprehensive needs of HIV-positive pregnant women and new mothers. The organisation recruits HIV-positive mothers after they deliver their babies and trains them to work as paid professional health care providers in the clinics and maternity wards where they once received medical care. These peer educators, called “Mentor Mothers”, engage, educate and support HIV-positive pregnant women and new mothers, guiding them in measures to prevent HIV transmission to their babies and in steps to ensure they will remain healthy to raise their children. These efforts contribute to empowering women and reducing stigma by teaching people to “live positively” with HIV.
Dr. Mitch Besser, Founder and Medical Director, and Gene Falk, Co-founder and President of mothers2mothers commented: “We are overwhelmed by the incredible generosity of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. This grant comes at a pivotal time in mothers2mothers’ growth as we strive to provide more care to more mothers and babies, ensuring that they receive, understand and embrace all of the medical services that contribute to healthy HIV-free children and healthy mothers. This grant will be transformational for our organization’s ability to measure the impact of our efforts and ensure we are providing the most effective services to our families. We are thrilled to be part of this strategic partnership with EJAF.”
Since 2001, m2m has grown from a local program in the townships of Cape Town, South Africa, to a multinational organization that employs and empowers more than 1600 women living with HIV in more than 600 health care facilities in seven African countries. Currently, m2m is located in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Rwanda, Kenya, Malawi and Zambia, with expansion planned in 2010 into Uganda, Mozambique and Tanzania. In 2009, mothers2mothers enrolled nearly 300,000 pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV into its programme.